Check out the Reggae Cowboys -- The Silver Mountain amphitheater is one of the great venues in the region -- heck, where else in the entire country do you get to ride a gondola to 5,700 feet to see a concert? This summer, Silver's first show out of the chute is the all-ages Brews, Blues and Reggae Festival on July 31, and along with Lloyd Jones, the Inland Northwest will get its first taste of the Reggae Cowboys. This Caribbean-born, Toronto-based band wears dreadlocks under its cowboy hats and -- seriously -- blends country music and reggae. It sounds like a novelty act, but it's not. Music critics across the country say they're pure fun, with originals and some choice covers, like "Hotel California," all reggaed up. They're even a sensation in Jamaica, reggae's homeland. There will be 20 regional microbreweries on hand, too, and your ticket gets you six "tastes" and a souvenir mug.
Silver's Marketing Directory Stephen Lane says the venue is being spruced up, too. "We're just trying to dress it up -- give it a nice facelift," he says. "But it's really unique. Where else can you sit at your seat and have a beer, with no guarded beer garden? It's always a great crowd, like a big group of friends."
Silver also has '80s hit-makers REO Speedwagon; the Other White Meat opens the Aug. 7 show. Up next is country star Brad Paisley on Aug. 15, with the Kelly Hughes Band opening the show. The Doobie Brothers will be takin' it to the slopes on Aug. 22, with local faves Too Slim and the Taildraggers kicking off the festivities. And just added to the schedule is the Silveroxx festival -- kind of a mini-Warped Tour -- on Aug. 28. The theme is mountain biking, and along with a race at the mountain, there will be vendors like Kona on hand to demonstrate new gear. Extreme demos will be on display, and of course there will be two stages' worth of music, with bands yet to be announced. For ticket information, call 1-800-204-6428.
Get a Seahawk To Sign My Cap -- Last season, the Seattle Seahawks made it back to the playoffs -- finally. They're returning to Cheney in August too. The Hawks signed a three-year deal to hold training camp on the EWU campus (this year starting on Aug. 2). Obviously the coaching staff likes to have these athletes trade their McMansions in Kirkland for tiny dorm rooms so they can actually get some work done before the season starts. Players new to the team -- like free agent pickups Grant Wistrom and Bobby Taylor -- might have to look at their road atlas to find Cheney, but their days of toil under the Eastern Washington sun give us folks a chance to see 'em in action. True, watching a team practice might not seem to be far above attending the NFL draft on the scale of pathetic sports fan behavior, but if you think about it, it's really the perfect summer activity. Like actual baseball games, there's just enough action to justify spending your precious free summer time. And before and after practice, you can line up and hope for an autograph. The best ones to get? I say Walter Jones, rookie Marcus Tubbs and Marcus Trufant. And of course, when the Hawks descend on their regular season victims like the vicious bird of prey they became in Cheney, you can say you sort of watched them practice as you sort of whiled away a few summer days.
Listen to Mozart -- One summer event I try not to miss is Connoisseur Concerts' Mozart on a Summer's Eve concert. Held in the field just east of Duncan Gardens at Manito Park, it's the perfect soundtrack for a sun-setting experience at the very peak of our best weather.
This year, while Mozart will make his usual appearances on the program, Artistic Director Verne Windham is making plenty of room for other highlights, too. First and foremost is an original work by noted local composer William Berry. The piece is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Manito Park. "The conception is multiple movements," says Windham, "with short pieces referring to the various delights of Manito Park."
But Windham is also aware that 100 years ago the St. Louis World's Fair was held -- an event marked by ragtime music and the invention of a little treat called the ice cream cone. With local favorite Ann Fennessy as the concert's soloist, Windham says you can expect some selections that will hearken back to those days.
You can buy tickets on the lawn, or you can buy seats at the tables -- and even feast on a dinner and dessert catered by Luna. This summer, the event is on July 20-21, and the weather has never been an issue. "If it's really hot out, it's just perfect by the time we're playing the music," says Windham. Call 325-SEAT for tickets.
Take I-90 and Drive West -- Every year we write about all the great places to get away to over the summer, but let's face it, probably the best getaway is Seattle. One of the strategic benefits of living in the Inland Northwest (hey, there have to be a few) is that we get to live within a half-day's drive of Seattle -- and we don't have to live there. If you want nine months of rain, freeways that resemble parking lots for most of the day and $400,000 starter homes, please, move there. For the rest of us, it's one really great place to visit. Downtown Seattle features a new library, a new art museum and a new concert hall. You can take in a Mariners game, ride the ferries (might as well; your taxes help pay for them) or visit some of the city's many hopping nightclubs and tasty restaurants. Shopping is another attraction, and the Emerald City does have a few things we still haven't lured to the dry side. Trader Joe's is always fun, as is the University Bookstore. Pike Street Market has all kinds of fun shops and booths, too. But the real reason to fork over the $2.20 a gallon you'll get pinched for the trip is a place called IKEA. Located near Southcenter Mall, it's a crazy place for cheap home furnishings, functional art and piles of Swedish meatballs to tide you over so you won't drop from all your shopping. Bring a large vehicle, however: You'll leave this place with more than you'd planned on.